Why My Son's Autism Is Exactly What I Needed (plus a fundraiser for a local ChildServe!)

4/29/17

If you had told me ten years ago that I would have a son with Autism Spectrum Disorder, pre-mom me would have given you a blank stare and maybe a furrowed brow. But this once vague and intimidating neurological condition has, in fact, become a familiar part of my daily life: my oldest of three sons has autism. There is a lot of fearful rhetoric around Autism but the truth is much less scary and much more beautiful than we’re told. Do my 7 year old’s neurological differences make life harder sometimes? Sure. But do they also make it better? Absolutely.

Here are seven ways that having a child with autism turned out to be exactly what I needed.
   


  1. His need for predictability forces me to be organized.
      
      I’m a notoriously disorganized person. I’ve never been good at sticking to schedules, I’m always late, and I generally have no idea what the day will hold when I start it. But having a kid with autism means I have to suck it up and adult. He needs high structure, predictability, and a definite plan- and if I want some semblance of peace I have to deliver!

2. He exposes me to things I’d never seek to learn on my own.
      
      My son’s mind is highly literal and factual. He enjoys stories here and there but if you really want to get him excited, give him a book about tornadoes. I, on the other hand, am a fiction girl through and through. I would never gravitate toward scientific books for fun! But thanks to my kid, I learn more about the earth every day.

    3. His meltdowns often sum up the way I feel inside.
      
      Does any parent enjoy managing meltdowns? Nah. And doing it multiple times every single day is no walk in the park. But sometimes there is something oddly gratifying about seeing someone express feelings in a way I’m not socially allowed to. If I can’t kick and scream over the ice cream shop being closed when we get there, someone should.

4. He works incredibly hard to make and keep friends.
     
      While I’m prone to make friends effortlessly and even take my dearest relationships for granted, social reciprocity doesn’t come easily for my boy. He puts in extra work to interact with other kids, and it inspires me to go the extra mile to appreciate the friendships in my own life.

5. He provides me with the perfect excuse to bow out early.
      
      Social settings are very stressful for my son, so short appearances are usually best. For an introvert like me who would rather be in yoga pants on the couch anyway, his anxiety is the perfect built-in reason to head home and get comfy!

6. His curiosity reveals my laziness.
     
      The constant barrage of questions about how things work- from water towers to windmills– makes me realize how content I am to not discover anything! His urgent need to know the engineering details of a machine might sometimes frustrate me, but it’s also an amazing gift to be reminded to pay attention to the opportunities to learn and grow all around me.

7. His idiosyncrasies make me more accepting of other people.
      
      Knowing my son intimately and appreciating all of his quirks has stretched me out of my comfort zone of people who all think and act like I do. Thanks to my 7 year old, I can understand better the range of neurodiversity in the world; I am much less judgmental and much more openhearted than I was before him. And if he keeps working on me, maybe I’ll be a halfway decent person by the time he graduates high school. We can hope.

FUNDRAISER TIME!

Many of you know that our family only recently received this Autism Spectrum Disorder diagnosis, though we had our antennae up for a long time prior. Our local branch of ChildServe has been an incredible resource for our journey, and we are so thankful for the support they offer families like ours in Iowa by providing evaluation, diagnosis, and therapies.

In honor of Autism Awareness Month, I'm teaming up with my friend Marla at Usborne Books & More to donate as many books as possible to our local ChildServe's autism department.

How you can help: 

- Use this link to buy some books for the kids in your life, and up to 50% of the proceeds go towards books that ChildServe will receive for free through May 5th!

- Donate books directly to our Ames branch. They've even made a wishlist of Usborne books they think will most benefit their ASD kids in therapy!

- Spread the word! Whether or not you're able to purchase, please consider sharing this fundraiser on social media or even in an email to friends and family. The more ears that hear about it, the more we can shower these kiddos with new books!

*UPDATED TO ADD: My friend Marla is graciously offering to personally match a $50 purchase made from ChildServe's wishlist by midnight tonight (May 1) - that's in addition to the 50% Usborne will donate! Someone jump??  :)


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Someday, the light will shine like a sun through my skin & they will say, 'what have you done with your life?' & though there are many moments I think I'll remember, in the end, I will be proud to say, I was one of us.

(Brian Andreas, Storypeople)

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